US Chess Home arrow About USCF arrow Governance arrow In Passing arrow Irving Ellner
Irving Ellner

Obituary provided by longtime friend Michael Wojcio.

My chess friend Irving Ellner died suddenly January 31st. He was my chess friend. I said this speech at his Eulogy.

Before I met Irving he was a member of the Roselle and Elizabeth Chess Clubs. When the Elizabeth club folded in the 70's Irving brought the sets, boards, and chess clocks and donated them to the Kenilworth Chess Club. Irving was very generous. He was president of the Kenilworth Chess Club for 7 years and a member for 25 years. He would have come longer but in the 90's moved to Edison, NJ and couldn't drive that far at night.

So I met Irving 31 years ago in 1977. He started many tournaments at our chess club like the Ladder Tournaments. Se he kept the club going for 10 years and participated in many events in the following years. Now the Kenilworth Chess Club is a very active club thanks to Irv's hard work. Irv's chess openings showed good strategic planning, the middle game was creative, and his end game technique was superlative. He was a postal chess master for many years.

I loved going to his home and analyzing our tournament games and playing chess. He once gave me a chess book called "Winning Chess Traps". He knew I loved opening traps. I loved the fact that he played for our Chessaholics Team and made us a very good team. There was a contest for the best gimmick with the teams, so I glued chess pieces to liquor bottles and filled them up with water with chess pieces in them. I always used to place four chess bottles near our chess boards when we played our matches at the US Amateur Team East Tournament. He would just laugh, but would always make sure he moved his bottle nearer to my board so it wasn't in his way.

One time years ago he once went to the Kenilworth Club and was there by himself. A very strong International Master came in that evening. Irv told me that he had black and after about half an hour he was ahead a pawn. Then he was ahead two pawns. Irv soon had a clear win and in a number of movements checkmate was inevitable... His opponent quickly walked out without shaking Irv's hand. Irv thought he was just going to the store to get some refreshments, but he never came back. Knute Rockne, the famous Notre Dame football coach once said, the way a man wins shows much of his character and the way he loses shows all of it. Irv seldom lost, but was very gracious in defeat. In fact if I could call Irv today about the Giants great win he might tell me the Patriots should try to shake off this bad defeat and show humility like when you lose a chess game. Irv sometimes made analogies that way to chess. He liked the "Morals of Chess by Ben Franklin".

About a month and a half ago Irving showed me a postal game that he liked. He played the game starting in the middle of 2006 to the fall of 2007 and Irv finally won against an expert. He won this game at 90 years of age and it seemed that he never lost his chess prowess. Well done Irv! He sure had a lot of patience. I couldn't play a game for that long. Well I sent that game to the Star Ledger about a month ago and they put it in yesterday. My regret is that I wanted to surprise Irving about it. I was then I finally said to myself I would call him Thursday before I went to the chess club. However, Louise called me first and told me the very sad news.

Irving was a real gentleman who also liked poetry, had a sense of humor, and loved life. Yes, Irv was truly that gentle man. Some people live in the past. Maybe the ones that are happy think of the good times they had when they were younger. Some people live in the future. I always told him the trips that I planned. Irv was a very good listener. It is good to look forward to something in this world. Now it is the present. We are here in Metuchen to honor Irv. His is in Shamayim (heaven) now. Thank you Irv for showing me how to play chess better. Thank you Irv even more for being my friend.

Irving Ellner - may you Rest In Peace.